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Literary Adventures

This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.

Here is our current selection:

Anna the Adventuress (1904) by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Chapter 28. The Hissing of "Alcide"

There was a strange and ominous murmur of voices, a shuffling of feet in the gallery, a silence, which was like the silence before a storm. Anna, who had sung the first verse of her song, looked around the house, a little surprised at the absence of the applause which had never yet failed her. She realized in a moment what had happened. Even though the individual faces of her audience were not to be singled out, she had been conscious from the first moment of her appearance that something was wrong. She hesitated, and for a moment thought of omitting her second verse altogether. The manager, however, who stood in the wings, nodded to her to proceed, and the orchestra commenced the first few bars of the music. Then the storm broke. A long shrill cat-call in the gallery seemed to be the signal. Then a roar of hisses. They came from every part, from the pit, the circle and the gallery, even from the stalls. And there arose too, a background of shouts.

"Who killed her husband?"

"Go and nurse him, missus!"


Anna looked from left to right. She was as pale as death, but she seemed to have lost the power of movement. They shouted to her from the wings to come off. She could not stir hand or foot. A paralyzing horror was upon her. Her eardrums were burning with the echoes of those hideous shouts. A crumpled-up newspaper thrown from the gallery hit her upon the cheek. The stage manager came out from the wings, and taking her hand led her off. There was more shouting.

The stage manager reappeared presently, and made a speech. He regretted--more deeply than he could say--the occurrence of this evening. He fancied that when they had had time to reflect, they would regret it still more. "No, no." They had shown themselves grossly ignorant of facts. They had chosen to deliberately and wickedly insult a lady who had done her best to entertain them for many weeks. He could not promise that she would ever appear again in that house. "Good job." Well, they might say that, but he knew very well that before long they would regret it. Of his own certain knowledge he could tell them that. For his own part he could not sufficiently admire the pluck of this lady, who, notwithstanding all that she had been through, had chosen to appear this evening rather than break her engagement. He should never sufficiently be able to regret the return which they had made to her. He begged their attention for the next turn.

He had spoken impressively, and most likely Anna, had she reappeared, would have met with a fair reception. She, however, had no idea of doing anything of the sort. She dressed rapidly and left the theatre without a word to any one. The whole incident was so unexpected that neither Courtlaw nor Brendon were awaiting. The man who sat behind a pigeon-hole, and regulated the comings and goings, was for a moment absent. Anna stood on the step and looked up and down the street for a hansom. Suddenly she felt her wrist grasped by a strong hand. It was Ennison, who loomed up through the shadows.

"Anna! Thank God I have found you at last. But you have not finished surely. Your second turn is not over, is it?"

She laughed a little hardly. Even now she was dazed. The horror of those few minutes was still with her.

"Have you not heard?" she said. "For me there is no second turn. I have said good-bye to it all. They hissed me!"

"Beasts!" he muttered. "But was it wise to sing tonight?"

"Why not? The man was nothing to me."

"You have not seen the evening paper?"

"No. What about them?"

He called a hansom.

"They are full of the usual foolish stories. Tomorrow they will all be contradicted. Tonight all London believes that he was your husband."

"That is why they hissed me, then?"

"Of course. Tomorrow they will know the truth."

She shivered.

"Is this hansom for me?" she said. "Thank you--and good-bye."

"I am coming with you," he said firmly.

She shook her head.

"Don't!" she begged.

"You are in trouble," he said. "No one has a better right than I to be with you."

"You have no right at all," she answered coldly.

"I have the right of the man who loves you," he declared. "Some day you will be my wife, and it would not be well for either of us to remember that in these unhappy days you and I were separated."

Anna gave her address to the driver. She leaned back in the cab with half-closed eyes.

"This is all madness," she declared wearily. "Do you think it is fair of you to persecute me just now?"

"It is not persecution, Anna," he answered gently. "Only you are the woman I love, and you are in trouble. And you are something of a heroine, too. You see, my riddle is solved. I know all."

"You know all?"

"Your sister has told me."

"You have seen her--since last night?"


Anna shivered a little. She asked no further questions for the moment. Ennison himself, with the recollection of Annabel's visit still fresh in his mind, was for a moment constrained and ill at ease. When they reached her rooms she stepped lightly out upon the pavement.

"Now you must go," she said firmly. "I have had a trying evening and I need rest."

"You need help and sympathy more, Anna," he pleaded, "and I have the right, yes I have the right to offer you both. I will not be sent away."

"It is my wish to be alone," she said wearily. "I can say no more."

She turned and fitted the latchkey into the door. He hesitated for a moment and then he followed her. She turned the gas up in her little sitting-room, and sank wearily into an easy chair. On the mantelpiece in front of her was a note addressed to her in Annabel's handwriting. She looked at it with a little shudder, but she made no motion to take it.

"Will you say what you have to say, please, and go. I am tired, and I want to be alone."

He came and stood on the hearthrug close to her.

"Anna," he said, "you make it all indescribably hard for me. Will you not remember what has passed between us? I have the right to take my place by your side."

"You have no right at all," she answered. "Further than that, I am amazed that you should dare to allude to those few moments, to that single moment of folly. If ever I could bring myself to ask you any favour, I would ask you to forget even as I have forgotten."

"Why in Heaven's name should I forget?" he cried. "I love you, Anna, and I want you for my wife. There is nothing but your pride which stands between us."

"There is great deal more," she answered coldly. "For one thing I am going to marry David Courtlaw."

He stepped back as though he had received a blow.

"It is not possible," he exclaimed.

"Why not?"

"Because you are mine. You have told me that you cared. Oh, you cannot escape from it. Anna, my love, you cannot have forgotten so soon."

He fancied that she was yielding, but her eyes fell once more upon that fatal envelope, and her tone when she spoke was colder than ever.

"That was a moment of madness," she said. "I was lonely. I did not know what I was saying."

"I will have your reason for this," he said. "I will have your true reason."

She looked at him for a moment with fire in her eyes.

"You need a reason. Ask your own conscience. What sort of a standard of life yours may be I do not know, yet in your heart you know very well that every word you have spoken to me has been a veiled insult, every time you have come into my presence has been an outrage. That is what stands between us, if you would know--that."

She pointed to the envelope still resting upon the mantelpiece. He recognized the handwriting, and turned a shade paler. Her eyes noted it mercilessly.

"But your sister," he said. "What has she told you?"


He was a little bewildered.

"But," he said, "you do not blame me altogether?"

She rose to her feet.

"I am tired," she said, "and I want to rest. But if you do not leave this room I must."

He took up his hat.

"Very well," he said. "You are unjust and quixotic, Anna, you have no right to treat any one as you are treating me. And yet--I love you. When you send for me I shall come back. I do not believe that you will marry David Courtlaw. I do not think that you will dare to marry anybody else."

He left the room, and she stood motionless, with flaming cheeks, listening to his retreating footsteps. When she was quite sure that he was gone she took her sister's note from the mantelpiece and slowly broke the seal.

"Dearest A----
"I lied to you. Nigel Ennison was my very good friend, but there is not the slightest reason for your not marrying him, if you wish to do so.
"My husband knows all. We leave England tonight.
"Ever yours,

Anna moved softly to the window, and threw up the sash. Ennison had disappeared.


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